Friday, August 25, 2006

Mental housekeeping

While catching up on Ronni Bennett's, Time Goes By, I was caught by her following comment:

When, years ago, I first ran across E.M. Forster’s line, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say,” it was an instance of "I’ve always known that, why didn’t I know that "before." I write to figure out what I think about things and it is astonishing how many times I start a blog post and wind up in an entirely different place at the end than I thought I intended. Writing is a joy for me because it organizes my thoughts, forces me toward clarity and often leads to discovering what I didn’t know before.

It's precisely how I feel about blogging. It's not so much that I haven't previously had the thoughts before I set out blogging about them. It's just that when I write them down, it helps me explore, clarify and crystallize some of the muddy areas that have been swooshing and swirling around in my head. Occasionally, I even get a eureka moment.

I don't know how other people's thought processes work, but I know that mine are far from linear and logical. I'm more of a stream of consciousness -- with multiple rivulets bounding in and out around rocks, picking up leaves and branches that fall in, sometimes picking up detritus from the riverbed with the occasional splash of a boulder thrown in from someone standing on the banks -- kind of thinker. I'm heading in the same general direction, but lots can and does happen before I get to the mouth of the river.

For me, writing things down acts like mental housekeeping. It forces me to think out loud about things I believe in and care about; sort out where, when and how I came to those beliefs, and see if the reasoning behind them is still valid. It's a process I don't mind sharing.

It wasn't always so. Introspection is a large part of my psyche and I was an extremely shy person for much of my life. Even though openness and discussion has always been a part of my household and how I've raised my sons, the outward sharing with complete strangers is relatively new. I think open discussion is crucial in developing concerned, thinking individuals that are willing to question the status quo, change what needs to be changed, or revel in the fact that some institutions and ideas are worthy of keeping.

It wasn't the easiest way to raise children. I marvel at parents who can answer, "Because I said so" in response to their children's questions. My way was much more tedious. When the boys were very young, I wished I could press an off switch to the umpteen millionth "why" question. In the adolescent years, every statement or request seemed to end up in protracted debate.

But something really wonderful happened along the way. Those debates became well-reasoned discussions – sometimes heated, sometimes rancorous – but nonetheless interesting and intelligent. Now, as adults, they are passionate, always questioning, and ready, willing and able to hold up their end of a discussion or debate.

(For an example of what I mean, you can read D's blog, A Transient in Spaceship Earth. A few of you already know that it's my son's blog, but maybe that's something else I'm ready to share. He hasn't posted in over a year because of school commitments, but I'm hoping he'll get back to it soon. We don't always see eye to eye on everything, but agree more than we disagree, and can at least understand the other's point of view.)

Would it have been easier to raise "yes, ma'am, no ma'am" kids who think exactly like I do? Probably. In retrospect, would I have done it differently? No.

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